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As somebody who grew up watching WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and a fan of the film’s of Tim Burton, I can say that I was more than intrigued when I learned that said director would be at the reins of a remake. CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY ($20) restores the title of Roald Dahl’s well-known children’s book to the tale, plus Burton’s skewed sensibilities marry nicely to John August’s updated adaptation of Dahl’s story, giving the candy colored world of chocolatier Willy Wonka a somewhat odd aftertaste. Of course, Burton’s collaboration with favorite leading man Johnny Depp has a lot to do with the success of this project. Depp’s interpretation of Willy Wonka is light years away from Gene Wilder’s slightly twisted portrayal. However, Depp’s emotionally and socially retarded take on the candy making genius has its own alarming properties, those of which, make one feel bemused and ill at ease- sometimes both at the same time.

While the plot of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is somewhat different from that of WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY the essentials of the story remain pretty much the same. The plot of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY focuses on young Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore), who lives with his impoverished family in a ramshackle cottage that is in the shadow of the world’s largest candy factory- owned and operated by mysterious Candyman Willy Wonka. Years after locking the world out of his factory, Willy Wonka announces that five ordinary Wonka bars contain golden tickets that will grant the bearer entrance to his top-secret candy making facilities. After children of dubious worth find the first four golden tickets, Charlie manages to unwrap the last ticket- but only after suffering a several disappointments. Accompanied by his Grandpa Joe (David Kelly), who once worked in Wonka’s candy factory, Charlie begins a unique adventure of unconventional and even magical properties. The cast of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY also features Helena Bonham Carter, Noah Taylor, Missi Pyle, James Fox, Deep Roy, Christopher Lee, Adam Godley, Franziska Troegner, Annasophia Robb, Julia Winter, Jordan Fry, Philip Wiegratz and Geoffrey Holder as the voice of the narrator.

Warner Home Video has made CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that have been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. Judging by the choice of codecs and how this disc was authored, I would say that Warner has been sitting on this master for quite some time. Despite the obvious age of the master, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is still offered with a fairly wonderful 1080p presentation. Image sharpness, detail and dimensionality are generally very good, but the image has been digitally manipulated in places to give it a garish, diffuse and slightly cartoony appearance. Texturing and fine detail are hit and miss, depending on how much digital processing is applied to a particular shot or sequence. Color reproduction is exemplary. Hues range from the sublime to the ridiculous, depending on the filmmakers intentions for a given moment; all of which are faithfully rendered. Blacks are pure, as are the whites. Contrast has a certain level of manipulation that helps skew the visuals. The elements from which CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY has been mastered appear virtually flawless. Grain/noise is very modest to non-existent.

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. As I commented on DVD release of the film, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY isn’t explosively mixed like an action movie, but the sound design does make great use of the outlying channels for directional effects, ambient sounds and musical fill. CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY sounded great in its lossy incarnation, but the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack really improves the sound, offering a fuller, more robust listening experience. Thanks to the lossless encoding, Danny Elfman’s score and the Oompa-Loompa songs sound truly marvelous, plus the sound effects make a greater impact. The bass channel is deep and weighty. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is always easy to understand. English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

The interactive menu gives one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental features, many of which have been ported from the DVD release. Starting things off is a picture-in-picture In-Movie Experience featuring a Tim Burton Video Commentary, additional cast/crew interviews, artwork and behind-the-scenes footage. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Attack Of The Squirrels is a nearly ten minute program that looks at the difficulty of working with live squires, as well as their Animatronic and digital counterparts. The Fantastic Mr. Dahl provides a seventeen-minute "cliff notes" biography of the author of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Becoming Oompa-Loompa spends seven minutes looking at what it took to turn Deep Roy into an army of Oompa-Loompas. Also included is Making the Mix, which is broken into five sections: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory: Chocolate Dreams (seven minutes), Different Faces, Different Flavors (ten minutes), Charlie And The Chocolate Factory: Sweet Sounds (seven minutes), Designer Chocolate (nine minutes) and Under the Wrapper (seven minutes). In addition there are two Previsualizations: Augustus Gloop Dance and Mike Teavee Dance. A Music-Only Track featuring Danny Elfman’s Score and Songs is provided in Dolby TrueHD. Closing things out is a Theatrical Trailer.

With Tim Burton’s skewed sensibilities and Johnny Depp’s off kilter performance, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY proves to be an utter delight that stands in the sunlight and not in the shadow of the first film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s work. The Blu-ray presentation provides a very worthy upgrade. Recommended.


Charlie And The Chocolate Factory [Blu-ray] (2005)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2011 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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